Why Does Everyone Hate Drummond?
A two-time all-star, three-time rebounding leader, six-time top-two rebounder, and Bleacher Report's 38th best player in the NBA was just traded for a bag of chips and a used tissue? Excuse me?
Ok, maybe it wasn't a bag of chips, but Andre Drummond was traded from Detroit after seven-and-a-half years to Cleveland for Brandon Knight, John Henson, and a second-round pick. While the two players the Pistons received for this deal are actually serviceable bench players, trading a physical star in his prime for two overpriced, washed-up veterans and a pick for good measure seems absurd. What's even more absurd, however, is that many media outlets and analysts are questioning why the Cavaliers would make this trade!
They traded two expiring pricey contracts of players past their primes, who meant nothing to the team, and a measly second-round pick in exchange for a bona fide monster in the paint. Drummond is up for a player option this summer, meaning he has the choice to opt into another year with Cleveland or hit the unrestricted free agent market, but he has already committed to opting in, so he can't be considered a flight risk either. Instead, analysts are questioning this trade because they consider the Cavaliers to be stuck with Drummond, as if he'll be a detriment. Last time I checked, the winner of the majority of NBA games is the team that gets the most rebounds, and I don't particularly see coupling a 26 year old star big-man with a solid young core with a bright future as a problem.
The reality, to me, is that the Cavaliers basically just did to the Pistons what, ironically, DeAndre Jordan did to our favorite bag of chips Brandon Knight a few years ago:
And yet, the insinuations of Drummond's inadequacy persist, not only in the sports media world, but also in the NBA itself, considering this was the best offer he could garner. So let's figure out why, exactly, Andre Drummond is worth next to nothing, whereas a player like Clint Capela is worth a certified 3-and-D star in Robert Covington.
Clint Capela, a young pick-and-roll bruiser from Switzerland, was also traded in a deadline deal as part of a four team trade, which, for Houston, essentially shipped him and late first-round pick out in exchange for a lockdown defender and three-point aficionado Robert Covington. Capela is a 25-year old now averaging a double-double for his third year in a row, averaging 13.9 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game so far this season, having served as a tertiary option to the tandem of Russell Westbrook and James Harden. For comparison's sake in making a level playing field representative of talent through production, if we adjust these stats to per 36 minutes they become 15.3/ 15.1/ 2.0.
Now, don't get me wrong, Capela is a perfectly serviceable big-man who is an indomitable force in the paint on both sides of the ball still yet to enter his prime, but he's not Drummond. Drummond's per 36 minute split comparatively is 19.0/ 16.9/ 1.8. While some may try to make the argument that Drummond simply gets more opportunities in less time because he's not playing alongside Houston's guard tandem, he was still the tertiary option on the Pistons and was, by no means, the go-to-guy. By these measures, the only reason Drummond should be potentially less desirable in a trade is his contract, since he makes $13 million more this year than Capela and is only definitively under contract through this season, as opposed to Capela being locked down for the next three seasons for a reasonable price. This still does not explain the gap in respect and value the two were regarded with.
For those who might want to refer to advanced analytics instead, Andre Drummond has Capela beat in two of the most prominent advanced measures of talent and value: PER (Player Efficiency Rating) and VORP (Value Over Replacement Player). Not only does he have Capela beat in both, but his VORP is twice that of Capela's, and Drummond, in fact, finds himself in the league's top 20 highest VORP so far this season. Every other player in that top 20 is an all-star or was just barely snubbed. On top of that, he is in the top 25 of PER, with a rating comparable to or better than the likes of Brad Beal, Kemba Walker, Paul George, and, yes, Clint Capela (by about 15 spots, in fact).
Clearly, Drummond is not only better than Capela, but should in fact be regarded as one of the better players in the league. So why isn't he, exactly? The biggest criticism I've heard of Drummond, especially when his name is mentioned in the comparison to bigs who play a similar style to him offensively, is that he is a defensive liability. So again, let's turn to the stats. First thing's first, as far as anchoring the paint goes, Drummond undoubtedly is at least halfway to being a defensive stalwart, with a league-leading 11.1 defensive rebounds per game. Many like to poke holes in his blocking instincts, however, since the common sign of a pain protector is their ability to spike shots away.
While Drummond certainly isn't leading the league in blocks, he's blocked his way into the top ten in blocks per game this season with 1.7, and his career average of 1.6 would steal find him comfortably in the top 15 this year. What's more important isn't so much how high he is, but who he's higher than: renowned defender JaVale McGee, young defensive stud Mo Bamba, and 76ers star Joel Embiid. And yet, I never hear any of them called a liability, and nor should they be. What's most impressive, though, about Drummond's defensive resume this year is that he is third in steals per game among all players! He's higher on the list than Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, and Marcus Smart and, even more remarkably, is far higher than any other big, with the next being Anthony Davis at the 14 spot. Speaking of Anthony Davis, who, along with Marcus Smart, is the favorite for DPOY this season, Drummond is more comparable to him than we might think. In fact, when referring to the defensive rating, which is a measure of how many points a player allows per 100 possessions, Drummond is just 4.8 points off of Davis. On top of this, Drummond's defensive rating is higher than Hassan Whiteside, who is leading the league in blocks and is considered one of the most intimidating presences in the paint this year.
What it comes down to is, "are Anthony Davis and Hassan Whiteside as bad defensively as Drummond?" or "are we not giving Drummond enough credit for his tremendous defensive efforts?" Speaking of tremendous efforts, to make one last comparison, the last player that had such a tight grip upon the rebounding throne was prime Dwight Howard. During what most would consider the best part of Howard's career, years two through eight in the league, he averaged 19.4 points, 13.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 2.2 blocks, and 1.0 steal per game. Drummond's numbers through the same span of time have been 15.2 points, 14.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.6 blocks, and 1.4 steals per game. Keeping in mind that Howard was the number one option back in his hay day, with a 24.4% usage rating, as opposed to Drummond's 21.9% usage rating, and the mild scoring gap makes sense. No, I'm not saying Andre Drummond is the second coming of Dwight Howard, but he holds a similar dominant presence in the paint and is definitely not worth a bag of chips.
Let me break it down or you this way, Drummond was traded for a bag of chips. Drummond is better than Capela. Capela was traded for Covington. Covington was supposed to be worth two first round picks. Therefore, according to NBA executive logic, either Brandon Knight, John Henson, and a second round pick are worth more than a first round pick or everyone is just severely underestimating this man. The paint monster that once ruled the NBA is dying out, or, more specifically, the demand for it. Long gone are the days where Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone and David Robinson and Shaquille O'Neal were the centerpieces of a team. Nonetheless, Deandre Ayton, Clint Capela, Mitchell Robinson, Rudy Gobert, Montrezl Harell, Hassan Whiteside, Jarrett Allen, and other classic big-men are highly valued and there is not a single reason Andre Drummond shouldn't be on that list. There is a time and place for the eye test but not when it is used as a slap to the face of a certified star.
(No bags of chips were harmed in the writing of this article.)
Contract details from: spotrac.com
Trade details from: bleacherreport.com